The 2017 hurricane season has officially begun. The season, which started June 1st, runs until the end of November. According to reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we could be expecting a more active season this year.

As we prepare for this year’s Hurricane Season, Lutheran Disaster Response has taken the time to reflect on last year’s most impactful hurricane: Hurricane Matthew.

In early October, many of us watched as Hurricane Matthew devastated the Caribbean and powered its way towards the U.S. Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas braced themselves as Matthew moved in their direction. After the hurricane dispelled and rivers receded, thousands of people, still reeling from the impact, were left with the work of putting their lives back together.

Rev. Joseph Chu, Program Associate for Lutheran Disaster Response-US, reflects on a recent visit to the North Carolina; the state most affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

On the evening of April 27, I had the opportunity to visit St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Lumberton, N.C.  St Mark’s Lutheran Church is the only ELCA Lutheran congregation in the city. Like many of our congregations, they are in a place of transition: revisioning their future and place within the community.

I was greeted by Maxine Amos, Carol Kendall and Robert Arndt, three long-time members and leaders of St. Mark’s. They led me to the Fellowship Hall they have been using as the Disaster Relief Distribution Center for the neighborhood after Hurricane Matthew hit the area on October 8, 2016. We talked about how the Hurricane did not do much damage to the city. It was the flooding the day after that ravaged and drenched so many areas. Fortunately for St. Mark’s, the flood did not cause any damages to the church. However, several families from St. Mark suffered major losses. They described how, within hours of the event, they were contacted by Bishop Tim Smith of North Carolina Synod. He asked if they might be willing to open up their building as a major distribution center for survivors. They answered the call and the rest is history. Donations of food, water, toiletries, and clothing began to arrive daily, by the truckload from congregations across the ELCA. St. Mark’s community rose up and faced the challenge head-on with members volunteering in receiving, sorting and distributing the much-needed supplies for their neighbors.

They showed me pictures of the destructions endured by the city. and pointed to the remaining supplies of food, toiletries and other family items in the room. The place had been packed with food and relief items and traffic was very heavy for weeks and months. More than 5,000 people came to receive much-needed supplies. Understandably, a little over six months after the event, relief distribution has slowed down significantly.

As I listened to these three leaders, the question that came to mind was: “What makes this congregation answer the call to become a disaster relief distribution center in spite of the many challenges they face?”

“If we don’t do anything, we will die!” Said Maxine Amos. Wow! What an affirmation of faith!  As a community of that is called by Christ, to live is not to over worry about our survival but to strive to be God’s Hands and Feet for the sake of this broken world.

Along with the efforts of St. Mark’s, with the support of Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Services of Carolina’s has been granted the FEMA Disaster Case Management contract. During the April trip, the Lutheran Disaster Response team were providing Disaster Case Management training for over thirty Disaster Case Managers and staff.

Be a part of the response:


Continue to pray for the people who have been affected by Hurricane Matthew. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.


We still need your help. Gifts to “Hurricane Matthew” will be used to assist those affected by the hurricane until the response is complete.


Stay connected to the latest events and our response to this and other disasters:

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  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.